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At What Point…

My son called me at work today. I was in the middle of dismissing my adult learners. He knows i’m at work, and he never calls me during work. So i’m standing there my heart instantly skips a beat when I hear those words, “Mama you got a minute I need to talk to you about something.” I was in the middle of a crucial conversation with a new student. With adult learners you have about five minutes to convince them just how important it is that they come to class and obtain that oh so important HSE (formerly GED) degree. My head is spinning i’m trying to finish with this student, remind the other students about their assignments tomorrow, and get to my desk to call my son.

I don’t know why it is as parents we always imagine the worst. I started remembering past conversations in which my mother’s intuition told me that something was bothering him and he didn’t quite know how to come out with it. Well, I calmed myself, got to my desk and called him back. Before I go any further I need to mention that my son is twenty seven years old. He is a grown man that has been living on his own for over two years. Of course it wasn’t a life threatening emergency, for once in a lifetime he asked for my advice about a situation. I told me to let me think about it for a minute and I would get back to him.

The point i’m trying to make is: At what point does a parent stop feeling that tug at the heart strings when your child is in some kind of imagined trouble. I should mention that I am a single parent. It was me and my son for so many years. I trust that I did a pretty good job of raising him with the help of God and family, but he will alway be my little boy. I know I can’t fix his problems like I did when he was ten, but sometimes your heart doesn’t know that. We all just want whats best for our kids and for them to be happy.

Needless to say, when I thought about his problem and called him back he listened, said he would think about what I said, but he will decided what he needs to do. The truth of the matter is, he probably wont do anything I suggested and that’s Okay, but for a few minutes he still needed to hear my side of the story, and I go the chance to fell like I was important to my son again.

I Can’t Read, and Nobody knows.

Recently I had the opportunity to go into a state jail. It’s a minimum-security facility; most of the inmates are serving two or fewer years. The first thing I learned when I arrived at the site was, “Never let your guard down, don’t forget for one minute where you are.” I agree they are incarcerated for a reason. After a few visits, being in class with these men It was hard not to see these individuals as more than just inmates. I learned a very important lesson; in most cases, the crime is what you did, it doesn’t have to be who you are. There is so much more to these men than just their crimes. Aside from the fact that they were fathers, brothers, uncles, and nephews. These men possess the skills to run business, start companies, open restaurants create wealth. So, what happened? LIFE. There but by the grace of God go I. They ran out of options. We’ve all been there, but we had a support system to fall back on. One other important thing that stood out, was the fact that most of these gentlemen didn’t finish high school, and if they did they couldn’t read above a 5th-grade reading level. These individuals have learned to compensate for their deficit in reading; albeit an illegal method, they did what they had to do to survive.

Which brings me to the reason for this blog. How many of us know someone that can’t read or they’re barely reading at a 3rd-grade reading level. Oh, believe me, there are signs, “I left my glasses at home, those words are just too small, can you read the menu for me?”In the United States alone, there are over four million illiterate or barely literate individuals. We live in a very fast-paced society. How are these people supposed to cope, make a living, just survive? In recent years employers have made it mandatory for their employees to seek their HSE (GED), but what about the ones that aren’t made to go back to school. If the rate of illiteracy continues to rise, then we should expect the rate of incarceration to go up as well. I’ll be working in jails for a long time.

Worth Remembering

I remember walking into my ninth grade typing class. I sat down, got out a piece of paper, and began typing. The teacher, looked at me, “such a studious student.” I can’t remember her name, but I never forgot what she said. I didn’t have a clue what studious meant. I guess I should have asked her, but I figured it had to be something good, cause she smiled when she said it and she didn’t say it to any to other student. I liked the way it made me feel. The minute I got home I ran to the dictionary to look up the word.

Studious: showing great care or attention, diligent, with a purpose in mind.

Words have power. They take on a life of their own. They become a part of your essence, they define you or they break you.

When I started teaching I wanted to give another student that same experience. I tried to remember to say kind thougthful words. I’m sure in twenty three years I said something that encouraged somebody. I retired from public school this year. My teaching career is going in another direction. I guess that’s what got me to thinking: What the heck will I be remembered for?

Einstien’s teacher wrote on his school report,  “He will never amount to anything”, 1895. Thank God we don’t have a name for this person. John Lennon’s teacher wrote, “Hopeless. Rather a clown in class.

I ran into a former student in church a couple of weeks ago. I was standing in the lobby before church. Out of no where this hugh linebacker of a man comes up and grabs me. “Hey Ms Montgomery. It’s so good to see you. You still look the same. I told my mom that was you up front.”

My mind is racing. I’m standing there praying God please tell me this kids name, you know they expect you to remember their name. I take a closer look; I’m rattling through file cabinets in my mind. I’m getting close, but still no name. I remembered the boyish smile, but that’s about it, “Hey sweetie, how are you? You look great, still not a clue. The fog is lifting, I remember I taught him in fourth grade. I just need a little more time. He obviously didn’t get on my nerves, I would have remembered him right away. “You know Ms. Montgomery I will never forget you. You are the reason I finised school. The principal wanted to retain me, but you spoke up for me. You told her to give you to the end of the year. Because you didn’t give up on me. I couldn’t give up on myself.”

I’m speechless. He went on to tell me that he has a great job, he started his own ministry for the homeless, and was about to start a non-profit for youthful offender. I’m almost on the floor in tears, I stopped another random person in the lobby and told her this is one of my student, he is such a wonderful young man. I still don’t have a name, and it really doesn’t matter. I made a difference in this young man’ life. That’s how he will remember me. Eventually one of his friend’s walked by and called his name. Not that it helped. I have no memory of speaking up for this student. I thank God I did, because he will go on to make a difference in someone else’ life; and that’s all that matters.

With twenty three years of teaching behind me Brandon (I will never forget his name again) is leading a happy productive life. When ever he sees me tells that same story to whom ever he is with and I’m back in ninth grade typing class again.

What’s Good on TV?

I was watching TV the other night. I channel surfed through about five shows. Different channels, different titles, same content; sex, manipulation, adultry you get the picture. I sat there thinking, am I becoming too sensitive, or maybe i’m just getting older. I decided it neither of the two. Well, maybe I am getting older, but I think it has to do with the times that we live in when everything is OK to show on television. Anything counts as entertainment.

I don’t want to go down the I REMEMBER WHEN LANE, but I still believe it takes a lot more to entertain the masses; and we should expect more, and even demand better. I enjoy watching a program with a great plot that keeps you guessing to the end. So tonight I turned on an episode of The Prodical Son (great show) I’ve watched the show a couple of time before, but tonight was a game changer; I was capitivated to the end. Great writing does that. Through out the show you pretty much thought it was going one way, only to get to the end and BAM! Got ya! I loved it. I guess i’m saying it not enough of that on TV these days.

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but the TV’s shows that seemed to have been able to hang on throughout the era of reality TV are the shows with similiar themes: action, suspense, intrigue. It’s a reason Law and Order SVU is in its 21th season.

I was having a conversation with my son, who is a millenial he informed me that statistically only old people (you caught that right) still watch regular TV (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX) stating that most people rely on Netflix and Amazon for entertainment. He went on to tell me that in just a few short years we wont even need the regular channels. I smiled and gave him a hug as I walked him out the door with a, “have a great evening son”. That was just a little too much to take in. Although I have Netflix and Amazon and I enjoy them a great deal. I realized that I am getting older when I have to imagine a day without my olf faithfuls. Suffice it to say I will continue to watch TV and I will probably continue to complain about the quality of the shows, but in the end some kind of entertainment is better than nothing. I guess I’ll watch an episode of the new season of Jack Ryan and call it a night.

You Got 20 Minutes

Have you ever heard some thing so profound, but so simple. I was a speaker at a woman’s conference on domestic violence over the weekend. Another speaker was telling us that she was having an argument with her husband. He looked her straight in the eyes and said, “you have 20 minutes.” She asked him, “What am I supposed to do in that time.” The answer was simple. Do what ever you need to do to get past this anger, this frustration. ?Take a walk, ride your bike, throw something, walk the dog, paint, sew etc. Do something constructive, the anger is doing nothing but stealing your time and energy. I sat there with those words twirling around in my head. You have 20 Minutes. I thought about. What would help me? I know when something hits me so profoundly it’s God telling me, STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN. So I asked myself, how can I apply this to my life. I’m glad I asked myself that question. Here is what I came up with.

  1. Own it, what ever it is you (I) had a part in it- what part did you play in causing the anger? It’ never just any one person’s fault. It’ takes two people to argue. In my case, it’s usually that I didn’t speak my truth. I didn’t give voice to my true feelings and i’m left feeling frustrated. It’s OK to admit that you messed up.
  2. Deal with it- What are you going to do differently next time. It may mean changing things in your life to avoid this frustration. In most cases it means avoiding certain people. Write it out. Make a list of the things you could have done differently. Call a friend. It helps to hear yourself say the problem out loud. You’re not necessarily seeking their advice, you just need to get it out of you. What ever you have to do to maintain you peace it’s worth it.
  3. Move ON– probably the most important point. LET IT GO! Don’t dwell on the problem. Turn off the tape. Have you ever had a scenario that played over and over in your head like a broken record. Grab the thought the minute it hits your mind and think of something positive. I have found that one of the reasons that I hang on to old situations and circumstances is that I forgave the other person, but I didn’t forgive myself. What ever it takes to get you to move on from a problem do it; you are worth it, your time is to valuable to deal with dead stuff. Besides anything dead should be buried.

Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9

The Door

I have been praying and hoping and doing everything I could do to get a position that I was certain was mine. I had a great interview in August I have been anxiously waiting to hear from the company. I spoke to other people who told me, “just wait it takes them forever to verify your background, and make sure you are legit person.” They’re advice was cool I took it in stride and when on about my buisness.

Two months have passed, still not a word. Now most of you are probably thinking, didn’t she figure she didn’t get the job when she hadn’t heard from them in over a month. No, I didn’t give up, as I stated earlier this was MY JOB. I have been waiting on this position for years. I called HR today, first off they couldn’t find my file, that surely wasn’t a good sign. Then I was transferred from one department to another, second nail in the coffin. Finally, spoke to a new person that has been on the job less than a month. She had NO clue where my file was, but she looked in the system and said those five dreaded words, THE POSITION HAS BEEN FILLED. My heart sank, my eyes filled with tears, my entire demeanor changed. Mind you i’m sitting in the car in my drive way during this entire conversation. So I get up and walk into the house. After opening my garage door I have to enter through another door. That’s when God spoke. I calmed down.

Sometimes when you ask God to open a door, you may not understand what the implications of opening said door would mean. Opening of one door could mean he has to close other doors that he is preparing. I honestly believe that is the situation in my case. I have been given other opportunities to explore, most of which are out of my comfort zone, but I’m going to explore them none the less.

I’ve said all that to say this: Things are not alway what they appear, rejection can mean protection. Keep the faith.

It’s not about you.

The Power of NO

NO, is a small word that carries quite a punch. I didn’t see the value and the freeing element of that one powerful word until recently. It’s hard to admit, but saying NO has always been scary for me. It’s always been hard for me to express my frustration and say NO if it meant someone else might be uncomfortable. Saying the actual word, wasn’t the problem it was the backlash or the confrontation and the questions that go along with NO.

  • Well, why can’t you?
  • Well, is something wrong?
  • This is so unlike you.

I retired from my teaching assignment in May after 23 years. Teaching was my second career. I worked in public health for 20 years before settling into teaching. When I look back over my life I have worked for over 45 years.

I was actually feeling pretty good; I felt this was a great accomplishment, is until everybody kept asking me, “what are you going to do with yourself?” So I began to feel guilty for being at home in bed when everyone else was getting up at 5:00 o’clock in the morning to get to work. It got even worse when my coworkers would call me and tell me how much the kids missed me. “Don’t you want to come back and help us out a little bit?” was the usually question. ” I would always respond, Yes I really do, but i’m busy. I even went so far as to sign up with not one but two agencies to do a little subbing. Each time it was time to take an assignment I would turn it down. Last week I notified both agencies, that I have no intention of subbing; that may change next year, but for now NO I don’t want to go near a school.

That all changed this week when I decided enough is enough. NO, I don’t miss teaching the kids, I want to teach adult. NO, I don’t miss getting up every morning. NO, I don’t care if it makes anyone uncomfortable. I don’t want to go to work everyday to a job that I don’t feel like i’m contributing to or making a difference in. YES, this feels great. I can’t tell you what a freeing feeling just saying that little two letter word is. I wish I had a camera so you could see the joy on my face just from admitting this to myself.

Keeping MY Peace

Peace is a precious thing. You have to guard it like a precious diamond. We are bombarded on a daily basis with things that bother, irritate and frustrate us to NO end. With this fact in mind I decided that I have to guard my peace at all cost. I can’t do anything about the horrible things that happen around me in the world and most recently in my neighborhood. But, you can bet I can do something about the things that I allow to come into my inner space, in my personal orbit.

I came to this conclusion over the past few weeks. I was confronted with an issue with my son, mind you he is a grown man, but I had decided that I knew what was best for him in a situation that he was dealing with. When I realized that he was doing what he felt was best and going on about his business, which left me stressed and out of peace. Well I came to myself and let the situation go, instantly I felt a since of calm.

I am a nurturer and a rescuer by nature. I take everything and every bodies problems to heart. That’s just who I am. But it has come a time when I have to realize that this is not God’s will for my life. I can’t fix the world. I can’t change anything. Life happens, but I don’t have to let other people’s issue take hold on me. People will be people and that’s OK. I don’t have to agree, understand or be a part of the situation. I just have to be the best me possible.

+ John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Let not you heart be troubled. I can’t fix everything, and I certainly don’t need to be a part of everything. LET IT GO! It’s Not my battle. Every tub has to sit on it’s own bottom. I can maintain my peace when I mind my own business.

Finding your Best Self

The  older I get I find  it to be increasingly important to be myself. To be true to who I am, and not to what others expect of me. As a person who finds it hard to say no. This is truly a revelation. You can’t be everything to everybody and still be YOU.

I have been a teacher for the past twenty three years. In May I decided to call it quits. I retired, or so I thought. I knew I wanted out of the traditional classroom with aggressive  back talking eight graders, but I’m not through with teaching. I have a class of adults that I teach, one night a week,  but I still feel the need to do more with adult literacy. That’s who I am, that’s what makes me happy. Statistics state there are over four million adults that can’t read. That’s heartbreaking, not to be able to enjoy a good book, or read a menu in a restaurant.

I had a friend to tell me recently that I was settling for teaching, cause I was too afraid to explore anything else. This really got me to thinking, am I selling myself short? She said that with a master’s degree I could probably get a job in corporate America making twice as much as a teachers salary. I thought about it and she’s probably right. But I quickly came back to myself. Am I be true to my  authentic self? Is that where I can be of the most help?

Besides, that I tried corporate America  four years before I came to education. When I look back at those four years, I want to pull my hair out. I remember I took a  job at an insurance company because I listened when other people told me that I needed a better job, since I would be raising my son by myself. After four years and a near nervous breakdown I got laid off, (thank God). I literally ran out of the building on May 30, 1996. I’ve realized that I am best when I am helping others, and it’s OK as long as i’m happy. So I applied for a teaching position with the state prison system. I went on the interview a few weeks ago, I haven’t heard anything it’s still pending, but that OK I’m believing God that’s my position. I remember when I was walking the prison yard with the interviewer he looked at me and said, “you don’t look the least bit afraid or intimidated.” I smiled and said no, I’m not it’s just another group of God’s people that need help.

I don’t believe in chances or coincidences. I believe I retired from one phase of education to go to the next phase. No, my friend doesn’t understand and that’s OK. I choose to pursue my passion and be true to myself.

I’m not Alone

Think about your last doctor’s appointment; not THAT appointment. Just your routine check-up. Well, while you were there did you notice that doctors are asking more about the mental health of their patients.

I was in with the doctor back in July. When the nurse seated me in the room she began asking the routine questions: how have you been feeling? Are you still taking your meds as prescribed? Have you been depressed within the last 6 months, a month or maybe within the past few days. I’m sure this is not the first time you or I have been asked these questions; I think it’s the first time I noticed. Without even thinking I responded “no.” But that was a lie. At that very instance I was missing my sister. She would have been with me at that doctors visit. She passed away over a year ago. It still feels like that day in March. I mentioned this to my doctor right after she passed. She quickly recommended therapy. Without hesitation I said “no.” Why was I (we) still so hesitance to seek counseling? I know for myself I couldn’t admit that I needed help. I am the STRONG one in the family. I’m the one that everyone comes to for help. Then there is the stigma attached to seeking professional. I can just hear my sisters, “just pray about it.” I did, I am, I will continue. I know God is with me. Seeking help is still a very daunting task.

I attended a class this past Saturday on mental health and wellness. The course is designed to help me become a Community Life Coach (CLC). It was a very interesting class; that is until I realized that I needed the help I would be offering. I was shocked to learn that 25% of all Americans suffer with anxiety and depression in some form; One in five adults have a mental disorder in any one year, (Mental Health First Aide). So i’m sitting here there were five people sitting on my row, BINGO! The statistic is right; I was the one in five.

Why can’t I tell my family that I am still struggling with our sister’s death. I thought about this, and it all has to do with perception. I am the strong one. I’m family member that everyone comes too when they need help. I’m also they one that is suffering in silence. Well, needless to say I have a very different perspective after the class. I am going to counseling. It may be a while before I discuss the issue with my family, but that’s OK. When i’m better I can help them.